By Radio Rahim
This coming Saturday night, Showtime will televise the sixth fight involving IBF, IBO, WBA heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs).
Showtime signed a multi-fight deal with Joshua in the aftermath of his big IBF world title win over Charles Martin in early 2016.
But the upcoming contest, a unification with WBO world champion Joseph Parker on March 31 at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, will be Joshua's final bout as part of his deal with Showtime.
There is a growing rumor from within the boxing industry, that Joshua will jump ship to rival network HBO.
Joshua's promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom, has been doing more and more business with HBO - and showcasing more and more of his fighters on their airwaves - like this past weekend's contest involving heavyweight contender Dillian Whyte.
As far as a U.S. broadcast partner, Hearn makes it clear that Showtime is without question the frontrunner to do future business with Joshua.
However, Hearn also indicates that there will be conversations with other parties - one of them surely being HBO.
"One thing that we're big on, that Anthony is big on, is loyalty... people that have backed us for a number of fights. This is our sixth fight on Showtime, the Parker fight. They backed us after the Charles Martin fight, where there was interest in Anthony Joshua - but nobody was really willing to put their hand in their pocket other than Showtime. They showed real bucks, they done it," Hearn said to BoxingScene.com.
"That means, before any negotiations start - [Showtime is] up here. They get first crack as far as I'm concerned. And I know there's rumors of 'Hearn is working with HBO' - I'm working with everybody. [Whyte-Browne] is on HBO, [Joshua-Parker] is on Showtime, two weeks ago I was at fight in LA on ESPN, there will be another announcement on the U.S. broadcaster for the Amir Khan fight, there will be another announcement on a Matchroom date with a U.S. broadcaster very soon. It's business, it's not ego.
"So when the question is asked - 'who will Joshua resign with, as a U.S. TV partner?' - And the answer is - whoever he wants to. And its not just about the deal and the financials... its about the vision, its about the journey, its about the profile, its about ideas and what you are going to do for the Anthony Joshua brand. It's not about this one has given you $3 million and that one has given you $4 million - it doesn't work like that with Anthony. It's about a plan and taking the brand forward and about taking the journey forward to become undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
"Showtime, as far as I'm concerned, they have first dibs. They backed Anthony Joshua from day 1. Are we going to talk to other people? Of course, we'd be mad not to. But as far as I'm concerned, they are the frontrunners because they have invested from day 1."